Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Actor Poachers- BEWARE

I am starting a war. Let me say it now, and say it clearly. I will not put up with companies that take advantage of actors under the guise of providing "services" or "opportunities" or "advisement." The gloves are off, and I am prepared to fight. So, Actor Poachers, Beware. I'm on to you.

But, hold on. Methinks the title of this article may have a double meaning. Yes, I am warning companies that poach for actors to beware of ME, but I am also asking actors to beware of THEM. Beware The Poachers.

Actors are a valuable commodity. Some of my fellow artists and I have commented that actors fuel an entire industry of service providers- photographers, teachers, editors, accompanists, graphic designers, and even Yours Truly (aka business coaches.) We all have our businesses because actors are pursuing theirs. And actors are known to be a desirous bunch, who will stop at nothing in their drive to succeed. It is no wonder, then, that actors are prime targets for some shady dealings. And, unfortunately, there is very little recourse for an actor when something goes wrong. Even worse, actors have been conditioned to believe that horrific behavior is something we just have to put up with.

Here are some examples of recent concerns I have heard from actors (some are students of mine, some are friends, and some were overheard at auditions):

• Donating their time to shoot a student project, only to find that the student dropped out of school without ever finishing the film and they never got footage.
• Being offered a role in a film, but being required to pay nearly a thousand dollars to do it (with no producing/creative control.)
• Auditioning for a theater company only to find that it is actually a membership-based showcase, and actors are required to pay to perform.
• Being told by their agent that they have a callback, only to have the casting director tell them that the agent lied and they have, in effect, sent you to "crash" the callback.

Obscene, isn't it? Sadly, these stories happened to SMART actors who have been in the business for a while, no spring chickens here. So, if it happens to all of us, what is an actor to do?

First, realize that every dollar you spend on your business should be put through a rigorous test to see a) what goal it serves, and b) how you can measure its effect. One of the most powerful tools in your arsenal is the ability to say "no." And the most powerful vote you have is with your wallet. Do Your Homework. Choose Wisely.

Second, when something sounds a little off don't be afraid of asking for advice from someone you trust. Who knows- maybe your peers have experienced the same thing and can help you steer clear of trouble. If you don't have anyone you can rely on, I offer myself as a sounding board- you can email me day or night.

Third, report your concerns to the appropriate authority. If you are concerned about a business, complain to the Better Business Bureau, as well as the referrer. (For example, if you reply to an ad in Backstage and run into trouble, you should notify Backstage as well the BBB.) You can also alert your union, if you have one. And, tell me as well. I have compiled a "BEWARE" list on the Resource Directory and if I get enough complaints about a company, I will list the concerns in the directory.

We have to stick together on this. Actors will not succeed in a vacuum- keeping this information to yourself helps no one. And, really, if you need some advice, please let me know. As I said, the gloves are off, and I am in your corner.

[ This will now conclude our boxing analogy! ]

Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below!

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has a weekly "Expert" column on the business of acting at Backstage magazine. As an actor, Erin has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has appeared Off Broadway, regionally and on national tour with both plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of several major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Value of Relationships

A brief personal story:

Word of mouth and previous work relationships have had some pretty nice results recently recently in getting me auditions and jobs. I just finished shooting a sketch video for the website New Year’s Nation (which will air sometime next week), for which I was recommended by a filmmaker I worked with 2 years ago. Last weekend I auditioned for a revival of a musical that ran Off Broadway in the early 80s, for which I was recommended by a friend of the director (who happens to be from the same hometown as me.) I also got invited to audition for a wacky interpretation of a classic play, which is being produced by a friend and colleague. I tell you, building and maintaining relationships is THE name of the game in this industry. Not only do you need to audition for new people, but then you need to keep in touch, develop the relationship, and stay on their radar. And doing good work can lead to future good work. It’s a wonderful part of this crazy business.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Starting a Production Company

I recently gave advice to a new film production company that was looking for a good name, and I realized that actors may benefit from this advice as well. In particular, this brainstorming advice is perfect for actors who plan to start a production company to produce their own work:

There are a couple of things to consider when brainstorming for a company name:

A) What kind of feeling do you want to evoke when someone reads the name? What kind of message are you trying to send? When I created my coaching company, The Actors' Enterprise, I wanted to make sure that people would know that my company deals with business, creativity, and action, and is specifically for actors. I then went to the thesaurus and looked up synonyms for "business" and "entrepreneur" and came up with Enterprise.

B) Is the domain name available? If not, go back to the drawing board and pick another name, or a variation on that name. Make sure you can get a .com or .org name. 

C) Look up your competition, or companies that are doing the work similar to the work you want to do. Put all of the names in a list, and then try out your name in that same list. Does it stand out? Does it sound like any of the others? Then, alphabetize the list- where does your name appear? It it toward the top, or toward the bottom? When companies are listed in directories/phone books/industry sites, they are often listed in alphabetical order. How do you feel about that? I list my name as "Actors' Enterprise, The" whenever I submit my info to directories so that I can be at the top if at all possible.


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